As a flower of the field


One night it rained.
I put on boots and left the house.
I walked until morning.
On a hill I sat in wet grass.
I heard a people of strange tongue.
My heart became a dove and flew toward the valley.
My feet became a deer and raced to the water.
My skin stretched over the brook and I became a drum.
My head became strings that my hands played.
They played the move of sun across my back.
I sang sparrow songs into the evening.
The dark came and I stood.
Grass pulled at my feet.
My boots were worn.
My house was very old.
The rain stopped. 

The occasion: One early morning in Kokura, Japan, while my son Michael was still asleep, I got up and walked downtown. The streets were still quiet and the alleys with all the markets were empty. There was only this old lady (above) bundled against and amidst the fading canopies, bright paper lanterns and patches of colour. I took the picture quickly, not wanting to upset her. She is blurred. When the coffee shop opened I sat down to a Psalm about change and impermanence. Things that are eternally with us. Things that fetch sadness, and things that allow flourishing. The crooked mercies of life.


  1. ‘the crooked mercies of life’
    never heard it said like that before –
    sadness and joy
    deliverance and destruction
    heaviness and happiness
    life and death

    i am making plans to visit my eldest sister, Else, in Milwaukee – since my last chat with her on the phone back in February to discovering she is no longer answering the phone – dementia is setting in rapidly and she seems to be wishing to live no longer – my wanting to catch whatever glimpses of light and life that i still can with her –
    somehow made this reading very meaningful Steve – tks –
    i must say, you do have a way with poetry words!!!

  2. Stephen,

    Tomorrow is “Poem in your pocket day” and my youngest son was asking yesterday which poem I was going to choose. I had never even heard of this day, but was impressed that a 13 year old entering puberty would be thinking of such things.

    I said that it would probably be from an environmental writer like Mary Oliver and then laughed when he said that he thought he could fit the “Odyssey” in the pocket of his school uniform trousers.

    But after having read your newest poem, I think I have changed my mind about what will be in my pocket. For a variety of reasons, I have been thinking lately of lives ending too soon, of native peoples and the many injustices they continue to face, of the once strong human connection with the land that is slipping away (are we really so desperate as to mine asteroids for minerals?)….For some reason, I see these threads in this poem. These sound like terribly depressing themes, but my ponderings are not morose. The crooked mercies of life, indeed.

    As always, beautiful writing and thank you for sharing.

    By the way, I am still reflecting on your piece “Framing Hiroshima within Easter”. It hit me in a profound way and so many raw thoughts come to mind. But realities of the end of the semester crunch have not allowed me to put those emotions to paper yet.

  3. Erika, thank you so much for your response. I’m humbled that some of these words were meaningful. I will remember you as you visit your sister. Here’s to glimpses of light and life.

  4. Diane, you have a wise 13 year-old. I’m impressed as well. I’ve never heard of poem-in-your-pocket day either. But to think that one of my poems could be carried about in someone’s pocket somehow elevates me to true poet status:) I’m very happy that you found here the threads of human connection with the land. We are creatures of the earth and of each other. And it’s here, in and through our passage, we find our transcendence and the Transcendent.

    Thank you as well for your thoughts on the Easter/Hiroshima piece.

  5. Fantastic!! I’m blown away by that!! I wondered when you took that picture!! Poem in your pocket?! Lacking my dad’s eloquence I hope my enthusiasm will pick up the slack when I say; that’s awesome!!!

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